By R. Alan Richardson
The Morgan County Bulldogs took a big Region 8-AAA win from a very game Monroe Area squad last week by the score of 63-59 in OT. This was a dogfight from tip to final buzzer and beyond. With the win Morgan will most likely retain their number one status in the state rankings. The Dogs will also stay atop the region standings with an unblemished record.
The early going had the home team staying in their familiar 2-3 zone while also employing an aggressive 1-2-2 half court trap. Monroe played tough man-to-man half-court defense the entire evening. The Purple Hurricanes took the early 5-0 lead on a three and another bucket before Alec Woodard answered with a three of his own. Ty Lawrence hit another three-pointer and Woodard added a bucket in the first quarter. However, it was Monroe that took a 12-8 lead after hitting a three of their own at the buzzer.
The second quarter had both teams squaring off like two prize fighters that ended in a 25-25 tie at the half. It was again Lawrence and Woodard leading the charge offensively with a smattering of other players adding free throws and baskets to the total.
The intensity really picked up after intermission with aggressive defense and a little mouthing going on between the two teams. The officials quickly cleaned things up so as not to mar a fantastic game going on between two stalwarts. Aided by two five second calls created by great defense and charges drawn, the Dogs took a 38-37 lead midway through the quarter. Morgan outscored Monroe by five in the third quarter to gain a 42-37 advantage going down the home stretch.
With their ranking and success this season, the Bulldogs have to know that they have a target on their back every time they hit the floor. Monroe played like this was the state championship was on the line in the final eight-plus minutes of the contest.
MOCO took their largest lead of the game at 45-37 early in the final stanza, but the Hurricanes fought back. With 1:36 left in regulation, Monroe made an old-fashioned three-point play to tie things up. With only 4.7 seconds remaining the visitors stepped up and calmly made two free throws to lead 53-51. The Dogs had to go the full length of the floor to try and tie or win. Morgan inbounded to half court and called timeout with 3.3 seconds on the clock. Everybody in the gym knew who the Dogs would be looking for, Alec Woodard. Woodard received the inbounds pass in the corner and took a tough, deep shot that sailed over the rim. Thank goodness that Lawrence positioned himself for the backside rebound. He gathered it and banked it in as the buzzer sounded to put things into overtime. Everybody loves seeing extra basketball.
Anthony Cooper played some inspired basketball in the final four minutes. He came off the bench with his usual style of slashing and shooting along with his tenacious defense to help Morgan to the close win. Cooper took first blood with 3:03 left. Woodard scored with 1:50 and Cooper hit a layup off a great pass by Lawrence to give the Dogs a five point, 59-54, lead with one minute and some change on the clock. It looked like that was the dagger the Dogs needed, but Monroe hit a clutch three-pointer to trail by two with 56 seconds left.
Morgan got a free layup on an out-of-bounds play from Woodard to Lawrence who went in untouched and unguarded at the 25.8 second mark. This was followed by a Hurricane layup with 11.8 seconds remaining to give Morgan the slight 61-59 edge. On the ensuing press by Monroe, the Dogs made two quick passes for the dunk by Cooper at the buzzer.
This was one of the better games you will ever see and a WIN for the Dogs just made it sweeter. The Dogs participated in the MLK Classic in Tallahassee, Florida from Saturday through Monday so we’ll all have to wait until next week to hear the results. See the sports schedule for more basketball, swimming, wrestling, and Middle School action coming your way this week.